Vietnam produces around four million tonnes of rice bran a year from milling rice, but since no rice bran extract is produced domestically, animal-feed producers depend completely on imports.

According to the customs department, feed producers imported 267,000 tonnes of rice and wheat bran as of April 23, almost a third more year-on-year, at a cost of 55 million USD.

The Vietnam Animal Feed Association said firms want to use domestic rice bran, but cannot since bran oxidises and curdles within a few days. The decomposition of its nutritive substances can have a harmful impact on animals, poultry, fish and shrimp, it said.

The rice bran extract – which they import mostly from India and Indonesia – costs more than bran, but Vietnam does not produce the former.

The extraction of oil from bran does not change its protein content, but can increase its shelf-life by up to six months.

Nguyen Dang Vang, Chairman of the Vietnam Animal Breeding Association, said for other high-protein items like soybean, fishmeal, and palm kernel meal too, the country has to depend on imports.

Last year Vietnam imported 750,000 tonnes of rice bran, rice bran extraction and wheat bran.

Nguyen Thanh Binh, deputy chairman of the feed industry association, said the country has for long been contented with the increase in exports of rice and other farm produce, forgetting that it also spends a lot of money to import animal-feed inputs.

"We can use items available in the domestic market to produce feed," he told Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper.

Vietnam earned 2.95 billion USD from rice exports but spent 4 billion USD to import animal feed and inputs for feed production last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Industry experts said the country needs to take steps to develop local production of animal-feed inputs.-VNA